Arsenal vs Bournemouth Preview: Gunners look to cement top four place against injury stricken Cherries
Photo: Getty Images - Dan Mullan

Arsenal vs Bournemouth Preview: Gunners look to cement top four place against injury stricken Cherries

The Gunners aim to be in touching distance for the final Champions League places.

Mitul Samji

Arsenal are looking to maintain touching distance with the final Champions League places ahead of Manchester United and Chelsea.

Unai Emery’s side aim to earn their eighth-straight home win in the Premier League. Since losing to Manchester City at home on the opening day of the season, Arsenal have won on home soil on 11 occasions and drawing twice.

Arsenal are coming into this home fixture against Bournemouth, having won all of their home fixtures against the Cherries. However, the Cherries only win against the Gunners came back in January 2018 where they came back from a goal behind to win 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium.

Since Arsenal’s victory at the Vitality last November, the visitors have been in woeful form – having won only on four occasions and lost eight times (picking up 14 points). Eddie Howe’s men are aiming to maintain their top-flight status for a fourth season running and only nine points clear off safety. Away from home, the Cherries are on an eight-game losing streak, stretching back to October.

Team news

Arsenal should be able to count on Ainsley Maitland-Niles (illness), Alex Iwobi (knock to right ankle) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (minor back issue), who are being assessed ahead of tomorrow’s game. Iwobi and Lichtsteiner limped off last Sunday in the win over Southampton.

The Gunners will continue to remain without Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck who are all sidelined for the rest of the season.

As for the visitors, Bournemouth currently facing an injury crisis. The Cherries talisman Callum Wilson, Steve Cook, David Brooks and Junior Stanislas are all out for the trip to the Emirates. Stanislas sustained a thigh injury in training before the Liverpool match.

Bournemouth will also be without midfielder Jefferson Lerma due to suspension. Lerma begins a two-match suspension for accumulating 10 bookings.  

While Lewis Cook and Simon Francis are sidelined for the rest of this season due to sustained knee injuries.

Predicted line-ups:

Arsenal: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Ramsey; Aubameyang

Bournemouth: Boruc; Clyne, Mepham, Ake, Smith; Ibe, Gosling, Surman, Fraser; King; Solanke

Key Clashes

Nathan Ake vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Ake has been the ever-present centre-half for the Cherries faces could face a long evening. This game has come at a very wrong time for Bournemouth and Ake as they keen to restore some confidence after a poor run of form. There’s no doubt about Ake's qualities and abilities as his performances have shone through to the Bournemouth faithful and will rise to the challenge at the Emirates despite Howe labelling the injury situation as ‘devastating’ - Ake could potentially be Bournemouth’s main man at the back.

The Gabon International will be aiming to be back on the scoresheet after a run of five games without a goal. There is no question about Aubameyang qualities as a lethal finisher with rapid pace that could prove costly for the visitors.

We have seen so far this season about his finishing ability and his record against teams below the so-called 'top six' is second to none. This proves to be a good chance for Arsenal’s top scorer to get back into the scoresheet against the under-firing side. He also scored the winning goal in the reverse fixture against the Cherries back in November.

Ryan Fraser vs Sead Kolasinac/Stephan Lichtsteiner

It’s a big game for Fraser in an attacking sense for the Cherries who is described as an “old-fashioned type of player" with the muscly physique stature that can open pockets for the Arsenal defence, who are one of the clubs in the Premier League to have a kept the lowest numbers of clean sheets (five).

In contrast, Kolasinac’s brand of football is really becoming unique. A strong and imposing left-sided defender or a wing-back has proven just how useful he can be and having him on the pitch is far greater than not.

The Bosnian international directness is so consistent and effective that proves to be so deceptive to opposing defenders. It is not all about fancy footwork of stepovers and it’s mainly about how effective he tries to be with the ball. He loves to attack and luring defenders to challenge him which makes the Bosnian so dangerous.

Dominic Solanke vs Sokratis

Pressure is boiling on Solanke to change Bournemouth fortunes and he is yet to score his first goal for the club. He’s a hard-working who always tries his best to come out from tight situations. Solanke physique and touch on the ball can prove a problem for Arsenal’s defence.  

Sokratis, as all Arsenal fans know, has been their most consistent and reliable centre-half by a mile. The Greek International immense performance against Southampton on Sunday shows he’s a leader, warrior and more importantly he does not like conceding goals no matter what the score line is. That is a kind of mentality which Arsenal have been looking for and need more personnel like Sokratis with a strong mindset in the art of defending.

What the managers said

The Cherries are coming into this game with a poor run of form along with an injury crisis. But Howe remains adamant that his squad can compete with the Gunners.  

He told BBC Sport: “We try and go in to every match with the idea of imposing ourselves. We've had some close games against Arsenal, and we're hoping we can go one better tomorrow night."

Emery remains prepared for Bournemouth amid speculation around on the club being linked with Roma director of football Monchi

There’s been lots of talk around the media about Monchi coming in as Arsenal’s new director of football who’s worked under Emery during his time at Sevilla.

With every game from now till the end of the season being so important, Emery is remaining focused on getting Arsenal back into the Champions League as the final fourth spot is Arsenal’s to lose.

Emery told BBC Sport: “I was usually working with a sporting director in all of the teams.

"The club is working on how we can improve, how we can be better in the present and the future with the people working for us."